Tuesday, September 13, 2011

“Worship in the Early Church”

Third Quarter 2011 Adult Sabbath School Lessons
“Worship in the Early Church”
For the week of  September 11 - 17, 2011
(PDF Link)
Some of the words used in the Bible are transliterations.  “Worship” and “baptism” are such words.  It is easy to read into these words our own particular ideas, but then we miss their true significance.  The literal meaning of “worship” in the Bible is to “prostrate” oneself before God in humility, gratitude, and total dependence.
Sunday -  In Acts 1:1-11 Jesus is speaks to us today with many “infallible” proofs as He spoke to the disciples on the way to Emmaus.  They had only the Old Testament, but we have even more infallible proofs.  We have the New Testament as well.
The early rain brought a message of personal and corporate repentance; a call to faith in the incarnation, victorious life, sacrificial death, resurrection, and heavenly intercession of Jesus Christ (Romans 10:9-12).  Included in this message was the good news that although all (including me) have sinned (past tense), and all fall short (present tense) of the glory of God, yet all (including me) are justified freely through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24, 25; 2 Corinthians 5:19).  God demonstrated His righteousness in Jesus Christ, showing His justice in bestowing His righteousness on every sinner who believes in Jesus as his personal Savior (Romans 3:26; 1 John 5:10-12).
Ellen White had a dream following the 1901 General Conference session in which she saw our leading brethren weeping together, confessing their pride, jealousies, and evil surmising of one another.  The angel messenger observed, “This is what might have been.”  This is true worship, our love for God and one another in humility, and insatiable love for the hurting, erring, and rebellious.  Thank God for our new GC President who openly repented for his own failings of pride, and ambition, inviting church leaders to join him in this transforming experience.  That invitation includes each one of us today.
Monday - In Acts 2:14-41 John the Baptist came preaching the Elijah message of repentance to the church of his day, preparing the way for the Messiah’s revealing.  We as Seventh-day Adventists are commissioned to preach the Elijah message of repentance today to both the church and the word in preparation for the second coming of our Lord.  Revival and reformation can never begin without a genuine, deepening repentance among God’s people.  God can never justify those who justify themselves.
When Doloris and I were in Russia in 1992, our young translator asked us, “Why don’t we as Adventists ever hear messages calling us to repentance like some other Christians do?” That question has haunted me ever since.
Tuesday – In Acts 17:15-34 Paul adapted the gospel to the cultural and religious understanding of the Athenians, but the message was the same as that of John and of Jesus:  “Repent for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.  Could we like the Athenians are tempted to worship an “unknown” God”?  In 1 John the Apostle tells us if we know Him it will be revealed in our attitudes and actions toward others.  Do we laugh and criticize, or do we pray with and for others?
Wednesday – Acts 18:1-16.  Whenever Paul entered a new community, he first preached Jesus in the synagogue – the local church.  But he always reached out to unbelievers as well.  What about us?
Thursday - 1 Corinthians 13 (Paraphrase):  Love (Agape) conquers all.  All else is just noise.  Love comes only as a gift through faith from God alone.  Agape is greater than great preaching, faith, or tax deductable gifts.  It is always long suffering and kind.  It is not proud, opinionated, rude, selfish, or irritated.  It imputes the best motives to others, doesn’t gossip about them, or enjoy it when they get what they deserve.  Agape demonstrates faith in others and never gives up hope for their success.  Agape patiently endures when everything seems to go wrong, never losing faith.  Pursue true Agapelove.
Friday – “The  (Agape) of Christ compels us, because we judge thus: that if one died for all, then all died; and He died for all, that those who live (that’s me) should no longer live for themselves, but for Him who died for them and rose again” (2 Corinthians 5:14, 15).  How do we live like that?  “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.  But we all, with unveiled (receptive) face, beholding as in a mirror (Jesus), the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord” (2 Corinthians. 3:17, 18) 
“Here is the patience (endurance) of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).  Here is true worship.
--Lloyd Knecht